Nonprofit local TV streaming service Locast has suspended its operations “effective immediately” following a court ruling. A US District court ruled earlier this week that the nonprofit violated the exception provided by copyright law.
Launched in early 2019, Locast relied on its nonprofit status to retransmit local, free over-the-air TV broadcast signals over the internet to users. It used a loophole in a provision of the US copyright law that lets nonprofits retransmit broadcast signals and put them online so more people could access them. This allowed people to watch free over-the-air TV broadcasts in their areas without having to pay for cable or live TV streaming services, or put an antenna in their living room.
Being a nonprofit, Locast expectedly didn’t charge any fees. However, it interrupted viewers with a 15-second-long video asking for donations every 15 minutes. A $5 donation would keep the service running uninterrupted for one month. Users who donate less, or more, would receive uninterrupted service for the time correlating to the donation amount.
Users could anyways ignore the request, or even get the requests completely removed based on their financial circumstances, and continue the free streams. But the four big US broadcast TV networks — NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox — didn’t like the idea. They jointly sued Locast shortly after its launch in 2019 alleging copyright violations. A US federal judge has now ruled in their favor.
District Judge Louis L. Stanton ruled that the donation Locast receives from its users exceeds the “actual and reasonable costs of maintaining and operating the service”. It is apparently making a profit from its streaming service and is using the money to expand in other areas. As such, the company has violated the exemption provided by copyright law. This ruling has forced Locast to shut down its operations.
Locast was initially reluctant to shut down its streaming service
Locast initially wanted to simply remove the donation requests rather than completely shutting down its streaming service. In a statement Wednesday evening, the company said that users will continue to get the service without interruption, “regardless of whether or not they donate”. The nonprofit added that it is up to users “whether or not to contribute to Locast.”
“But if you currently contribute, we humbly request that you continue to do so. And if you don’t contribute, we hope that you will do so if you can afford it,” Locast said. However, that plan seemingly didn’t work and it has now closed up shop outright.
“As a non-profit, Locast was designed from the very beginning to operate in accordance with the strict letter of the law, but in response to the court’s recent rulings, with which we respectfully disagree, we are hereby suspending operations, effective immediately,” the company said in an emailed statement to users Thursday morning. It’s unclear whether Locast plans to return to the streaming scene in the future. Some reports suggest it could appeal the ruling but we will have to wait and see.